Orange ended its exploration of Nigeria as a potential addition to its African footprint, as Middle East and Africa CEO Jerome Henique (pictured), bemoaned a lack of market conditions for the operator to enter.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) revealed in July last year, Orange sent a team to explore a possible entry into Nigeria, which according to the NCC had been described Orange non-executive Victoria Adefala as a missing piece in the French operator group’s expansive African footprint.
Speaking to Developing Telecom at Mobile World Congress Barcelona, Orange Middle East and North Africa CEO Jerome Henique said, Nigeria already has four established operators in its market and there was “no positive conclusion” from its recent market survey of Nigeria, and there is “no project in the short term to enter Nigeria”, but did not rule out a future entry.
Henique added the conditions must be right for Orange to mount a serious challenge against market incumbents, stating this as a key condition or entry.
“When we consider what we have to invest, we believe that being the big number one or number two player is a condition for success. Nigeria is already a mature market, but we of course continue to monitor all markets and opportunities in Africa,” he said.
Orange is currently mulling its options to enter Ethiopia, where the government is looking to sell off a 40% stake in state-owned Ethio Telecom.
Henique said Ethio Telecom is a strong incumbent that has been “transforming itself quite impressively” since the arrival of competition from Safaricom Ethiopia.
Orange began its 5G rollout in Africa with Botswana as “conditions were met” said Henique, in terms of pricing in spectrum and licence. However, there is no urgency to mass deploy 5G as the operator is looking to boost 4G for growth, from its current 66% coverage rate in MEA.
Henique said the company is discussing with low-Earth orbit satellite companies to boost its 4G coverage ambitions but refused to state potential partners. Orange had partnered with Eutelsat in the past to deliver high-speed broadband to remote locations in France.
“We still have to make huge investments in expanding 4G coverage in our 18 markets. Botswana was a mature enough market with the right conditions to launch. In the other markets, we are under discussion to launch on a country-to-country basis, with regulators. We still have a lot to do on 4G and there is no urgent need to launch 5G everywhere,” he said.
The next 5G launch that Orange MEA will oversee will be in Jordan over the next 18 months after operators struck an agreement with regulators to unveil the next-generation technology.
Henique eyes 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband as a “good complement” to FTTH and 4G FWA products, and drive the evolution of broadband in its markets.